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The Carthage Press
  • Book recounts childhood at Carthage motel

  • For 11 years, before the construction of the interstate highways, Rex Jackson lived out his childhood at one of the hubs of life on old U.S. Highway 66 in Carthage.
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  • For 11 years, before the construction of the interstate highways, Rex Jackson lived out his childhood at one of the hubs of life on old U.S. Highway 66 in Carthage.
    Jackson, an author from Neosho, has finished a new book, titled "Traces of Ozarks Past," and one chapter recounts Jackson's own story as the son of the owners of the Kel-Lake Motel at a time when the motel sat on the "Main Street of America."
    His parents, Ernest and Eula Jackson, owned the hotel from about 1955 to about 1965, from the time Rex was about 2 years old until he was about 12.
    "Kellogg Lake had just been finished," Jackson said. "It was all new at that time. That highway was all there was. Every car that was headed east or west was on that highway unless it was a local person going home on a back road. Back then the road was a pretty important artery. The only things at that intersection were Kel-Lake Motel on one side and Lake Shore Motel on the other."
    In an interview with The Carthage Press, Jackson recalled living in one of the motel's rooms until his parents bought a mobile home and set it up behind the motel as a living quarters.
    "I'd go to sleep at night with the lights going around the room," Jackson said. "My room was on the end where Route 66 was and as the cars went by, the lights would go around my room and I'd go to sleep with the lights in my room. And there was waking up in the middle of the night hearing my dad go to the doorbell someone rang when they rented a room."
    Jackson recalls attending the LaGrange School northeast of Carthage, and living in a time when that two-lane ribbon of blacktop was humming with people and commerce.
    "We had no vacancies almost every night in those day," Jackson said. "It was a pretty important spot, people came fishing, people from all over the country and even from other countries, traveling and seeing the sights of America."
    Jackson's story of living at the Kel-Lake Motel is only one story in "Traces of Ozarks Past," taking up pages 70-75.
    It is one of 18 short stories he's researched for this 152-page paperback book that was published by Heritage Books.
    It opens up with the story of Roy "Arkansas Tom" Daugherty, a bank robber at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
    Daugherty was born in Barry County and committed a string of robberies that ended in 1893 when he was incarcerated for 17 years.
    When he was released in 1910, when he attempted to go straight.
    Jackson writes that Arkansas Tom was arrested again and served four years before he was again paroled.
    Page 2 of 2 - He again took to robbing banks around northeast Oklahoma, southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri until Nov. 26, 1923 when he entered the Bank of Asbury in Jasper County and robbed it at gunpoint.
    He got away one more time, but on Aug. 16, 1924, he was gunned down by police at a house at 1420 W. Ninth St., in Joplin.
    Jackson also writes about Mathias Splitlog, the "Millionaire Indian of the Ozarks," who has a town named for him in McDonald County, and Stand Watie, the Cherokee Indian turned Confederate General in the Civil War.
    He writes about the wreck of a train headed for the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair, a bank robbery in Fairview in Newton County and an explosion at a dance hall at an old Shrine Hall in West Plains that killed 37 people.
    "I don't use the internet for research because I've found it not be all that reliable," Jackson said. "I usually use microfilm of newspapers or older books or scholarly written books that seem to be pretty reliable, they seem to be more in depth. You find out a lot more that way and they seem to be more accurate. The closer you can get to the date of the occurrence, I think you find more reliability in the source rather than just someone trying to recollect."
    The book is available for $20 at www.heritagebooks.com.

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